Printable bionic ear sends hearing to the dogs

(Credit: Frank Wojciechowski)

Using off-the-shelf 3D printing tools, silver nanoparticles, and cell culture, scientists at Princeton University have created a functional bionic ear that can detect radio frequencies far beyond the normal human range.

Living, 3D-printed tissue has been in the news a fair bit recently, but this is the first attempt at creating a fully functional organ with embedded electronics.

“In general, there are mechanical and thermal challenges with interfacing electronic materials with biological materials,” said Michael McAlpine, an assistant professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at Princeton and the lead researcher on the project. “Previously, researchers have suggested some strategies to tailor the electronics so that this merger is less awkward. That typically happens between a 2D sheet of electronics and a surface of the tissue. However, our work suggests a new approach — to build and grow the biology up with the electronics synergistically and in a 3D interwoven format.”

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